The Geary County Sheriff’s Department and Junction City Fire Department are teaming up to develop a dive rescue and recovery team.

Sheriff Dan Jackson said the presence of Milford Lake is the driving force behind getting a team together.

“Within our jurisdiction is the largest body of water in the state of Kansas,” he said. “I felt we needed to be able to use a dive team.”

Developing a local dive team means that recovery process can start quicker.

“If we need a dive team, we have to reach across the state,” Jackson said. “There’s only a couple of teams.”

Jackson said the vast majority of dive efforts in the past have involved evidence recovery. However, he said there’s also an opportunity to save someone’s life with a local team that can get to the water in a timely fashion.

Jackson said 9 people participated in training Tuesday and an additional 11 people planned to train Thursday evening with Jeff and Anita Freeborn of Flint Hills Scuba.

After scuba orientation and a swim assessment, six employees from the sheriff’s department and six from the fire department would be selected for the team.

“You have to go a little bit bigger than you need at all times to be an effective team,” Jackson said.

Dive team duties would be in addition to each member’s regular responsibilities. Jackson said the fire department is seeking grant money and the sheriff’s department will use asset forfeiture money for the team’s funding.

Each member of the team would have to obtain certifications in open water and advanced open water diving, and public safety dive rescue and recovery.

Jackson said the team could be fully certified by next summer but possibly sooner. He said this depends on the weather and potential for out-of-state training in warmer climates.

“You don’t want to do entry level training in frigid waters,” he said.

Once the team is fully trained, Jackson said the local dive team will be available to provide assistance across the state when requested.

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